When I got to Bali, all I knew was that there were a lot of doggos to love. Anyone who has met me knows that I love all dogs without discrimination. Big dogs, small dogs, fluffy dogs, dirty dogs, stray dogs, you name it, I will pet it. This was true for pretty much everywhere I have ever traveled.
However, I will admit that in parts of South East Asia, the stray dog epidemic put me off a little bit. As much as I want to love every dog, there were so many of them and some of them were significantly less than friendly. When I got to Bali, my friend asked if any of us wanted to walk rescue dogs through the rice fields of Bali. Always down to hang out with dogs, I said yes without hesitation.
It was an eye-opening and heartbreaking experience, a far cry from the happy stroll in the park that I was envisioning. We walked through some side roads in Gianyar to get to an unassuming little gate where we were greeted by Mabel. She was cute, clean, and had all her limbs and eyes. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for any of the other dogs there.
When we arrived, we were told about the terrible treatment of dogs in parts of Bali and Indonesia. Many dogs are abused, tortured, killed, and eaten. The treatment wasn’t restricted solely to the strays roaming the streets, either. Sometimes dogs would be abducted from their homes entirely just to be tortured and eaten.
The manager at this particular rescue shelter told us a story about how she saw four dogs being prepared to be killed by a man with a machete. She managed to pile three of the four onto the back of her motorcycle before the man realized and chased her away. She talked about how the fate of that fourth dog still haunts her every day despite being able to save the other three.
A belief that is still prevalent in some parts of the world is that dog meat will taste better if the dog suffers prior to being eaten. Some dogs will be tortured and left to suffer for a few days before they finally die. I am not usually one to judge the beliefs and traditions of another culture but this is something that truly hurt me to hear.
The dogs at the rescue shelter were among the lucky ones that made it out of terrible situations. A few of them were missing eyes, one was missing a leg, and many had visibly suffered in the past. Even those that didn’t seem to be disabled or disfigured were clearly distrusting of humans, still. I felt worst for the ones that weren’t even allowed to interact with us yet because of how badly they had been treated in the past.
Volunteering at the various dog rescues in Bali is a unique experience that more travelers should consider doing. First off, who doesn’t like playing with dogs? Second, it gives the dog a chance to interact with more humans and potentially prepare them to be able to live in a real home again. You get to see the beautiful, rural side of Bali while doing something great for dogs that deserve so much better than the hand they’ve been dealt.
It is hard for the few volunteers to take care of so many dogs and dedicate their lives to helping them so every time someone can help, it means a lot. It might only be an hour of your time but it is the highlight of the dogs’ days.
If you want to volunteer with rescue dogs in Bali, there are a number of animal shelters but the one I volunteered at was BAWA Bali. They have a number of locations throughout the island. If you can’t volunteer or adopt, you can also consider donating to help the dogs live better lives. You can check out BAWA’s website here.